Monday, August 31, 2009

crucified for being too loving and too lovable

Long ago there lived a Man who was crucified for being too loving and too lovable.

And strange to related I met him thrice yesterday.

The first time he was asking a policeman not to take a prostitute to prison; the second time he was drinking wine with an outcast; and the third time he was having a fist-fight with a promoter inside a church.

There are three miracles of our Brother Jesus not yet recorded in the Book: the first that he was a man like you and me; the second that he had a sense of humor; and the third that he knew he was a conqueror through conquered.

- Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Pin It Now!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ramadan and Sufi School Retreat with Sufi Guide, Sidi Muhammad al Jamal

Inside Dome of the Rock Mosque, Jerusalem, Mosque of Omar1.
Tariqa Shadhiliyya

The Tariqa, the Way of the Prophet Muhammad is one. It is the same way as that of Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

Say: We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. (Final Testament 2:136) and We make no distinction between any of His messengers (2:285)

The way of the Shadhiliyya is the straight way. You do not need many months or many years; but one hour is all that is necessary to know the Tariqa and to know your God. All of you come as children to Him.

Muhammad, upon him and to all divine messengers be holy benediction, is the 'insan al-kamal and through him all the knowledge (ma'arifa) from Adam until now is ours because the truth is within our hearts. This is the way of the "Muhammad of the time" or the "Jesus of the time". He is the Prophet of the Holy Light (Imam al-Huda). This Way is the way to know God. The Tariqa Shadhilliya is the way of the person who forgets all things and returns back to the truth as in the beginning; a child in the Presence of God. You can not see more than Him or hear of any other place. You cannot speak without Him. You are with God, in God, to God in the origin of all things. You are in this station and this station is in you; fana al-mutlaq (annihilation in the freedom of God); the start which has no start; the end which has no end.

Al Warith ul-Muhammadi | The inheritor of the praised one, the guide who carries the truth

The Prophet said: "The Children of Israel used to be guided by prophets. When a prophet passed away, another prophet succeeded him. But no prophet will come after me;
The knowers are the inheritors of the prophets."

"In my community there will be my elect followers who will have status equal that of the Prophets from the Bani Israel (Children of Israel)."
- Hadith, sayings of Prophet

Sidi Muhammad al Jamal ash ShadhiliiyaBeloved, know in whose presence you sit; know who whispers these words into the ear of your heart. You will see me with the eyes of your deepest yearning, if you see me at all. If you understand what I mean then let us meet face to face, hand to hand, soul to soul.

Know that the perfect slave is one with his Lord and he is like one immersed in a great Sea who doesnt swim through the Sea by his own effort or intention but is borne with the Sea and is one with the Sea. Many fathomless currents and hidden pearls are contained within the depth of the Sea; so vast and limitless is the Heart of the guide because at once he is in the Sea and the Sea is in him. When you look into the face of the guide, what do you see? You see yourself. If you come to the Ocean with a cup, you drink by the cupful; if you come with a teaspoon your spoon will be filled. If you enter and dissolved in the Presence (fana-fi-shaykh) then you see truly, without limit, beyond form, who you are facing and who you are whom he faces.

Beloved, know that the guide is the holy bride who wants to wed you but only her Beloved within you can truly embrace her. The bride is your Own Original Truth which remains virgin, beneath the veil of every presence.

How do you become, or realize the holy being that you are, for whom the guide has manifest to reflect? Search about yourself, my beloved, and know yourself well. What you truly long for, ask for, so that you may receive it. Call to me from your inner depth, so that I may meet you in that depth from which you call. Again I say, drink and surrender; you take from this Sea what you give to this Sea.

Beloved, I await you.

- From Music of the Soul by Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal, may God bless him

Sidi Muhammad al-Jamal, Guide of the Time in the Shadhiliyya Sufi Way

Sidi Muhammad al Jamal ash Shadhiliiya Sitting in MeditationSidi Shaykh Muhammad Sa‘id al-Jamal ar-Rifa‘i ash-Shadhuli, the Guide of the peace, the mercy, and the love to the way of Allah through the Sufi path a guide of the Shadhdhuliyyah Tariqah. The Shaykh is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, through his ancestor, Shaykh Ahmad ar-Rifa‘i. He was born in Tulkum in the Holy Land in 1935. He is the spiritual inheritor through the Shadhili line from his Guide and Master, Shaykh ‘Abdu-r-Rahman Abu-r-Risah of Halab in the land of Syria. In 1997 he restored the 1000 year old Sufi Council that served in the Holy Land. He is the Head of this Council in Jerusalem and the Holy Land and has been a teacher and central figure at the Masjid al-Aqsa or the Dome of the Rock for many years.

The Shaykh has been living on the Mount of Olives in the Holy City of Jerusalem since the year 1959. The teaching from his spirit is very deep and for all those who have a heart and who listen with this heart. His teaching sheds an entirely new light on the reality of Sufism and the significance of carrying this message to everyone in this time.

For many years the Shaykh has been a teacher at the sacred sanctuary of al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. Not only is he a teacher and counselor for all those who come to be at al-Aqsa, but he is also its custodian, for through his hand and leadership in these times this Sacred Precinct has been preserved, in the face of many efforts to destroy it, as a place of prayer for the Muslim people who come from all over the world to visit the Holy City of Jerusalem and to take the blessing of the praying in this Mosque. The Shaykh has students and followers in the Holy Land as well as in America , Africa and Europe, but it has only been since 1993 that the order came to his heart to travel to visit other countries. At the same time the order came from Allah for him to give teachings to all those in every part of the world who are sincerely seeking for the truth of their existence, the meaning of their life, and to heal their wounds. Up until then, the teaching had been reserved only for study in his Zawiyah in Jerusalem. Sidi opens his heart to help everyone from any country or nationality and any spiritual / religious background.

He began his career at a very young age as an uncompromising man of God, who had no fear of anyone but God, and because of this took a stand facing governments any time they tried to overlook God in their actions or disrespected people’s right to worship God. Being a judge of the courts, he was a government employee, at the same time that he gave weekly sermons in al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. He has been the spiritual counselor to the people of the Holy Land and to all those who have visited over the past forty years and has given his life as a sacrifice to this work. He makes monthly journeys all over the Holy Land to help the poor and to make sure that everyone has food and clothing. There are always lines of people at his home and at his office because they know that they can find real help from him.

The Shaykh opened a Sufi Center in an old building on the road to Jericho which holds the Prophet Moses’ tomb, may the peace and blessings of God be with him. This center became the head of the Sufi operations of aid.

In 1994 he made his first visit to America and has continued to be invited here each year to give seminars and teachings at schools and centers across the United States. The Shaykh is not a teacher for a few following a spiritual path but opens his heart to help everyone from any country or nationality and he has helped people from all over the world.

(Biographical information courtesy of Sidi Muhammad Press)

. Sidi's Silsilah (Line of Spiritual Transmission) and Holy Lineage upto Prophet

Ramadan and Sufi School Retreat with Sidi Muhammad al-Jamal

Its a delight that Sidi is presently in the USA visiting many cities, generously showering his teachings and giving bayat (initiation into the Tariqa) to those who seek the Way, who seek Truth. There will be gatherings and retreat with his presence in a number of states and towns in USA including Northern and Southern California, Austin, Texas and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The next of such gathering is coming up on September 4 to 7 at Santa Barbara, Southern California. There will be special Khalwa or all night retreat of prayer, meditation and sufi practices. For this and other events follow the links below:

. Sufi School Southwest (Santa Barbara, CA) | September 4-7
. Ramadan Retreat (Pope Valley, CA) | September 10-20
. Austin Sufi School (Austin, TX) | October 1-4
. Florida Sufi Gathering | October 16-19

> Read Details about Sidi's 2009 Schedule

> Click for a PDF of the Master Schedule (including registration info).

Shadhili Center Logo
The Last 10 Days of Ramadan Retreat

A very special retreat on the last 10 days / nights of Ramadan will be held from September 10-20, 2009. During this retreat, the Mother Center at Pope Valley (Near Sacramento) California will host Sidi Muhammad al-Jamal and Shaykh Abdullah Nooruddeen Durkee. Sidi’s visit will include Lailat al Qadr (the special night of blessings and revelation) which will be on Wednesday, September 16th, Inshallah. The retreat will end with Eid celebration, possibly on September 20th. Places are limited. So pls consult registration info for details and contact the numbers therein if you intend to receive the blessing of sitting with the guide.

When the seeker is ready, the master appears.
- Ancient Sufi Tradition

# Drinking Further
. Tariqa Shadhiliyya
. Resources via Shadhiliyya Sufi Center

# Past Posts
. With Sidi Said al-Jamal and sufi khalwa night
. Sharing from Sidi Shaykh Muhammad Sa'id al-Jamal's visit
. Reminiscence from a khalwa night Pin It Now!

Friday, August 28, 2009

What is a Truly Universal Spirituality? | Kabir Helminski

Following is a highlight from a thought provoking article by Shaykh Kabir Helminski, a contemporary sufi guide of
Mevlevi path.

Is it possible for humanity, or even a portion of it, to embrace a truly universal spirituality? If so, what would a universal spirituality be based on? And would such a spirituality be able to offer a path to complete spiritual realization? The answers to these questions have become more urgent as the world becomes smaller through technologies of communication and transportation.

Most people who opt for the universal approach to spirituality really have in mind taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It is a particularly modern and Western (and especially American) notion that we can customize our spirituality in a "self-service" way. Historically, the significance of religion has more often been that it united human beings in a common purpose and destiny. In most traditional cultures, which placed so much emphasis on unity and continuity, the modern preoccupation with personalizing a religion or path would have seemed insane.

There is another kind of universality that proceeds from within a particular tradition when someone decides that they do not wish to be bound by forms and beliefs and so attempt a "formless" spirituality. In the few cases of this kind that I have observed, there is always the inescapable necessity of carrying the assumptions and perspective of the original tradition into the formless version. In the name of transcending forms, beliefs, and identifications, they seem to acquire many of the characteristics of a cult - especially a focus on a single charismatic figure without whom the whole enterprise would dissolve.

Yet another form of universality, and to my mind the most authentic form of it, is the result of committing oneself wholeheartedly to a particular tradition while honoring the good will and truth within other approaches. Eventually, if one goes far enough on one of the real paths to God - and these are usually paths that have been sanctioned by a lineage of enlightened beings -t hen one arrives at a truly universal perspective because one has used a particular tradition to transcend the egoism that needs identifications and exclusive beliefs. A striking example of this kind of spiritual attainment is Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, the great Sufi gnostic who said, "My heart has become receptive of every form. It is a meadow for gazelles, a monastery for monks, an abode for idols, the Ka`ba of the pilgrim, the tables of the Torah, the Qur'an. My religion is love - wherever its camels turn, Love is my belief, my faith."

Ibn 'Arabi was not, however, a practitioner of a universal faith, but one who wholly absorbed the way of Islamic Sufism and from whom issued an expression of that tradition which influenced subsequent generations until the present day. It is true that with his depth of apprehension he gave very original and, to some, shocking interpretations of the Qur'an. For him the way of Islam was revealed to be the very matrix of Truth in a unique sense, yet through it he became a universal human being.

To what extent is it desirable and possible to distill the spirituality from a religious tradition, receiving what is most pure and essential while leaving behind the dregs of cultural relativity and historical bias? In a sense this is a task that must be done by every generation: restoring the essential message, the living impulse, the spirit of a tradition.

Some would go further, proposing either that we break with the past completely, or that we, in a sense, create a new way based on former traditions. Rajneesh was an example of the former, claiming to represent a new beginning. Various gnostic, Rosicrucian, and even "Sufi" groups fit the second category--offering new rituals, symbols, and practices.

Having experienced some of these activities, the question I would ask is: Apart from the subjective apprehension of their aesthetic or intellectual qualities, do these practices have the signs and characteristics of being a gift from the unseen world, or the signs and characteristics of a man-invented ritual, symbol, or practice?

Most spiritual seekers in these times would assert their freedom from religious "dogmas," preferring, instead, an experiential spirituality. No spiritual practice, however, is entirely free of assumptions, premises, cosmology, metaphysics, and myth. By dogma, however, is probably meant those assertions of opinion based exclusively on some human authority - usually an authority claiming to speak for God himself.

The Qur'an is virtually free of dogma - and by dogma, here, I mean the assertion of belief or opinion without evidence. In the category of dogma I would place those ideas which either:

1. Define or particularize Absolute Reality with concepts, or

2. Ascribe an exclusive agency of salvation to one religion (the notion that God "has a religion and it is. . . ," as is encountered in most fundamentalisms), or

3. Claim a unique and unverifiable Divine power for a particular individual.

The Qur'an is not unique in its relative freedom from dogma. The words of Jesus in the Gospels are likewise free from dogma and theology - although this has not hindered the formation of dogmas and theologies based upon these words.

Once one has accepted that there is a Reality that is apparent neither to the senses nor to the intellect alone, but can be apprehended by another knowing faculty within the human being, and that this Reality might be able to communicate with humanity by offering the same message to various messengers, then one can take a critical look at the Qur'an, the circumstances of its revelation, and Muhammad and decide for oneself whether this offers a truthful and helpful description of the human situation. One may find that it even helps to sort out the essential truths from the relative accretions in other traditions. In other words, it may point us to the universal spirituality itself.

> To read this article in full, click here.

A sage came upon a field which was filled with many holes. There was a man seen in the field who was still digging more holes. The sage asked what is it that the man was doing? The man replied that he was trying to reach watertable underground.

The sage said, "If you wish to reach the source of water, then instead of digging many shallow holes - dig a single hole deep enough so that it will reach you to the watertable underground."

This small sufi story is a hint to many who seek a genuine spiritual path. The question is, are we sincere enough to pursue and hold fast the path that shall take us to the Source or are we engaged in vain digging many shallow holes, trying this, trying that?

Holy Prophet said, "there are as many paths to reach God as the number of human breath." Indeed there are many paths that take one to divine realization. There are many boats that can take one to the other shore of eternity, but some of the boats are so old, so ancient that structure of some boats are already falling apart, some have holes underneath and the journey to God is never an easy one. One risks no less than one's soul and this precious human existence.

So stand straight, and follow not the way of those who know not. (Quran 10:89) And most of them follow not but surmise. Verily surmise is of no avail against the truth. Verily God is well aware of what they do. (10:36).

# Further:
. Essays from The Knowing Heart
. Articles via
. The Paradox of “Universal Sufism” by Pir Zia Inayat Khan Pin It Now!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Invocation of Refuge | The End Chapter of Quran

Surah an Naas arabic text from Quran
In the Name of Allah, All-Compassionate and All-Merciful

Affirm with your whole being,
I seek true refuge with the Lord and Lover of humankind,
The Mystic Sovereign of humankind,
The Divine Guide of humankind -
Sure refuge from all negativity that whispers divisively
into the pure heart of humanity
and into the hearts of conscious beings
on the subtle plane of being.

- The Quran, 114, 1-6

A meditative rendition of Surah an-Naas or the Humanity (The End Chapter of Quran) by Shaykh Nur al Jerrahi (Lex Hixon) from Atom from the Sun of Knowledge

# Multimedia
. Listen / Download | Sura Naas (audio mp3) - Recited repeatedly by Qari Karamat Ali Naeemi

. Surah Nas - Salah Bukhatir via Youtube
. Surah An-Nas - Mankind via Youtube

. Text: Literal translation, and Transliteration

. A Tafsir of Surah an-Naas via Naqshbandi Muhibeen
. Tafsir ibn Kathir Pin It Now!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Immersion | a Ramadan Sharing

Women Praying in Ramadan1.
If you desire an Opening then behold!
the Opening has come to you.
Inna Fatahna Laka Fathan Mubina.
Truly We have opened out to you a clear Opening.

- a Shadhili Invocation, Inspired by Quran (48:1)

If you want to have the Door open to You,
keep walking towards the Door.

- Rumi


The great Ramadan, the month of the Qur'an.

For the third year in a row, the same Hafiz al-Qur'an is visiting our little community; he conducts the Taraweeh prayers and recites fabulously.

Last night I rediscovered Surat al-Baqara. In the relatively small, crowded room where the women are relegated, I am recovering (once again) from an old sport injury. Several times during the recitation, my body started vibrating and my dull ache dissipated completely for a few minutes at a time until I would come back to myself. Around me predominantly African, Indian and Pakistani women... several elderly African women in sumptuous traditional clothing. One cannot tell those who understand the Arabic from those who do not from the degree of absorption in and reverence for the words that are being uttered and what is being presented. At the end of the prayers, the invocations rise so easily, so fluently... in response to the One who just spoke and told of marvels of Mercy: "Wallahu dhool Fadhli'l 'Adheem", For Allah is the One with abounding Bounty" al-Baqara: 109.

Parallel to the immersion in the Qur'an, I am reading "Imam Jalal al deen al Suyuti's: "Secrets of the ordering of the Qur'anic Surat"; in it, he speaks of a rule that he and others have discovered : each Surat explains and expands on the one preceding it. Surat al-Baqara in its entirety is an explanation of the verses of Surat al-Fatiha. For example: The first verse : "This is the Scripture - let there be no doubt about it- a guidance to those who are cautious" is a response to the invocation in Surat al-Fatiha: "Guide us to the straight Path"- as in the Hadith reported by Ibn Jurayr and others:" The straight Path is the Scripture"... Many gems in this little book brought out from the Imam's vast knowledge.

Later on I watched a recording of last night's Taraweeh from al-Haram al Shareef, the first reciter - Imam al Johany- impeccable in his recitation had a little lapses and kept repeating one verse: 7-8 times he repeated verse 74:
"And yet, after all this, your hearts hardened and became like rocks, or even harder: for, behold, there are rocks from which streams gush forth; and, behold, there are some from which, when they are cleft, water issues; and, behold, there are some that fall down for awe of Allah And Allah is not unmindful of what you do!"

As I watched and listened, I thought that Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, without whose permission nothing happens, was giving us from His own house from His own Book an insistent message about our state as people..."after all this" weighed heavily on me.

I am waiting for the next installment tonight, that is the food of Ramadan.

May Allah, Owner of Glory and Perfection, forgive us and continue His blessings on us all - Ameen.

- Hind
Ramadan 1430 H, August 2009 CE

The soul’s understanding is that everything comes from the Presence. That’s how we know God, through the awareness that the soul has. If everyone could know this all the time, everyone would be a prophet. But that is not the case. Prophets have been given the power to renounce tasty food and drink, to relinquish pleasure in order to dissolve their attention more completely into the divine. Very few can do this.

- Maarif, Bahauddin Valad (from The Drowned Book by Coleman Barks and John Moyne)

# Related Multimedia Resources:
. Live Taraweeh (Special Prayer on Ramadan) transmission from Makkah approx 6.00 pm GMT from Embedded Islami Channel
. Haramain Salat Recordings
. Ramadan 1430 Recordings
. Prayers from Mecca and Medina Mosques
. Makkah Taraweeh 2009 by Shaykh Abdullah Juhany
. The Interactive Tajwidi Quran
. Tanzil | Quran Navigator

. Ramadan 2009 | a Community Blog

# Other:
. Divine Teacher by Hind Rifai Pin It Now!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Observing Ramadan as a Month of Universal Spirituality

Cosmic Staircase1.
For those who truly love God and His ways, all the people of the world are brothers. The man who doesn't see the nations of the world as one, is one gone astray even if the pious claim he's holy. We regard no one's religion as contrary to ours, true love is born when all faiths are united as a whole. - Yunus Emre

If some one asks, 'show me a Prophet, a Messenger, an Enlightened Master who walked upon the earth and did not consider humanity as one family'; one can not fine one because there aren't any. All illuminated beings from whose deep inspiration, later disciples and followers created complete tradition or faith - all such illuminated beings strove towards uniting mankind, their message being that of unity, not of division. One God, One Earth, One Human Family. Thus they envisioned a world without division where 'loving one's neighbor' (as taught Holy Messiah Jesus) or 'love for your brother what you love for yourself' (as taught Holy Messenger Muhammad) is an exalted ideal embodied and lived. That is the path to make this dusty earth into a divine kingdom.

Billions of Muslims across the world observe the month of Ramadan to attain and to strive towards God Consciousness (Taqwa) and thanks to the world becoming a global village, this practice of outwardly abstinence from food, drinks, bodily passion and inwardly abstinence from all negative qualities, from dawn to dusk for a complete lunar month - is no longer a foreign thing even to those who are not born in Muslim family or culture. Infact in the west the occasion of Ramadan is getting a lot of attention and press.

"O people! Behold, we have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and races so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-Knowing, all-Aware." [Qur'an 49:13]

What is very heartening to see that many committed Christians are coming forward in joining the observance of Ramadan with their Muslim neighbor and friends. The Prophet in his sermon mentioned that this month invites humanity to become guests of God. "It is the month which invites you to be the guests of Allah and invites you to be one of those near to Him."

In this year's month of fasting, Pastor Brian D. McLaren's observance of Ramadan with Muslims is an excellent testimony of the spirit of Ramadan. Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, pastor, and networker among innovative Christian leaders, thinkers, and activists, but most importantly he is a mystic at heart. He is a popular author of a number of books including: The Secret Message of Jesus, A New Kind of Christian, Finding Our Way Again.

In his first post titled, Ramadan 2009 | What’s going on?, explaining his decision to fast with Muslims Brian writes:
This year, I, along with a few Christian friends (and perhaps others currently unknown to us will want to join in) will be joining Muslim friends in the fast which begins August 21. We are not doing so in order to become Muslims: we are deeply committed Christians. But as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them. Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.

. Part2, Why is a committed Christian joining faithful Muslims in observing Ramadan?

. In Part 3, Brian writes,
.. when Phyllis Tickle invited me to write the introductory volume to a series of books she was planning. The series would explore seven practices shared by the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The book was called Finding Our Way Again. I concluded the book with the dramatic story of St. Francis in the court of the Sultan of Egypt, Malik Al-Kamil, where a Christian and a Muslim individual each transcended the hostility of their warring religious communities long enough to respect one another as human beings. As I wrote the book, I felt how much we needed more Christians to follow the path of St. Francis today, and I rededicated myself, before God, to that pathway.

One of the seven practices shared among Abrahamic faiths, of course, is fasting. But fasting among most Christians is haphazard at best. Most of what I wrote about my own experience of fasting in the book veered towards the humorous, because when it came to fasting, I was admittedly a clumsy neophyte.

. The sharing continues in the Part 4 and Part 5

And yesterday (August 21st) Brian observed his first day of Ramadan and shared a beautiful prayer from his first day of Ramadan in his blog, I quote a selection:

God, Creator of all people, in this month when a billion people will observe Ramadan with fasting and prayer, with devotional reading and with kindness to the needy, may your Spirit be at work in the hearts of Muslims, Christians, and Jews (who together make up over half the world's population) as well as people of other faiths and no stated faith.

May your gentle voice call us to move beyond our tribal visions of a deity who loves "us" but hates "them." Help us to see you more truly as you are, a God who is pure light, rich in mercy, whose mercy triumphs over judgment, who knows us each by name, and who graciously considers us beloved, wherever we are from, whatever our background, whatever labels we apply to ourselves or others apply to us.

May your voice of truth call us to question the prejudices and misconceptions about you and about one another that we learned from well-meaning but misinformed authority figures, even when they thought they were speaking in your name.

May your voice of peace make us ashamed of our violence, hatred, fear, superiority, and resentment. And may your voice of courage inspire us to walk in the way of reconciliation, even when that path is dangerous and difficult.

May your voice of compassion teach us to see one another - and ourselves - with new eyes, your eyes. And so may we forgive one another where we have been hurt by one another; may we humble ourselves and admit the truth where we have done the hurting; may we repent where we have chosen the small ways of revenge and exclusion rather than your greater ways of reconciliation and embrace.

May your voice of wisdom call us out from our vicious cycles of self-destruction.

It is good, Lord, when people pray and sing praises to your name. But how hollow are those words and songs when we do not also honor you by honoring one another. For how can we honor the God who cannot be seen when we dishonor our neighbor, made in your image, who can be seen?

So, Creator and Provider and Sustainer of Life, Giver of all grace, Source of justice and mercy, may your voice be heard deep in my heart, and in the hearts of all people on earth, this beautiful planet that displays your artistry, majesty, and power. Amen.

(> read the prayer in full)

And Brian is not alone, many other committed Christians are joining with Muslims in this month of Ramadan by observing the fast. Many of them chose to be anonymous or was not featured in the media, never the less they are our beloved brothers and sisters who are fasting this month. Not only Christians, but also people of other faith are joining observing fast with Muslims in Ramadan. We have extra ordinary story of Hindu Prisoners observing fasting with Muslims in India, and how a person of Hindu faith helped Muslims in his community to fast. In India, there are thousands of non-Muslims who are attracted by the spiritual aspects of Ramadan and fast silently without declaring it to the world (credit). In Malaysia, a country of diverse faith often Buddhist, Hindu and Christians join Muslims in Ramadan fasting.

In the west (particularly in Canada and USA) in many university campuses, the spirit of Ramadan is seen vibrantly as Muslim students invite non-muslims to join the practice of fasting and break fast together. In 2007 when I was at UCLA the Muslim Students there arranged Fast-a-thon and invited all to join fasting and charity. It was fun!

May God accept all who are fasting in this Ramadan, sanctify their faith and bless their heart.

EarthIn this world of increasing inter-connectedness and heightened awareness of our shared faith, the honoring of Ramadan by other faiths opens up a wonderful window of possibility that the month of Ramadan can be observed as a month of Universal Spirituality across the globe. This can be, God willing, a sane way to turn away from mindless consumerism, blind materialistic lifestyle, and to turn to our spiritual essence and to be magnanimous towards those who are less fortunate by practicing charity in the month and being sympathetic to those who dont have enough food to eat. Living on the side of "Have Everything" we even dont know how it feels for those who lives on the other side of "Have Nots."

To emphasize the point, Ron Dreher's writing in his blog Crunchy Con can be cited, 'I found as a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, which also observes some fairly strict fasting, that nothing quite breaks one out of one's routine of thoughtless consumption like serious fasting.'

As fasting is already an universal practice from ancient Hinduism to Judaism to relatively new faith movement such as Bahai - almost all religions have fasting practice, no other practice can unite the whole of humanity that this one. Since Ramadan is observed by all Muslims across the world with consistency, the month of Ramadan has the best potential to become a month of Universal Spirituality compared to any other religious occasion (even transcending Christmas which has been turned into a commercial madness). And in doing so the spirit of one human family can be lived with all the benefits of Ramadan which is to remind ourselves the timeless teaching of Christ, "Man shall not live by bread alone, " and as Quran teaches us "And make provision for yourselves; the best provision is Taqwa (God Consciousness)" (Quran, 2:197). And not to forget that Ramadan fasting is to renew our God Consciousness with every action.

"Luminous beings are we, Luke, not this crude matter"
- Jedi Master Yoda

If you are a Muslim you may share your inspiring practice of fasting with your non-Muslim neighbor or friend. If you are not from Muslim faith, but feel moved about the month of Ramadan and its fasting practice, you may join the practice at this time of charged spiritual current across the globe. Befriend a Muslim colleague, neighbor or friend to learn about the simple way of fasting preserved in Islam from the timeless way of the Messengers and Prophets. Partnering with someone who is fasting could be a strong inspiration, God willing. You are also welcome to walk into any nearby mosque during this period just before sunset and express your interest to join the iftar or 'breaking of fast' (or even you dont have to say anything in that matter). No matter which part of the world you be, you will be graciously welcomed to take part. Many mosque serves the breaking of fast meal as a toke of love as they break the fast together.

Muhammad Mustafa said, "A faithful believer to a faithful believer is like the bricks of a wall enforcing each other", while saying that, he clasped his hands together, interlacing his fingers.

May the believers of all faiths join and reinforce each others' faith in common observances and celebrations and in doing so realize that it is only one family, the human family; as one sufi master calls it, "God's funny family."

"O People, know that the Lord and Sustainer is One. O people, remember that your Lord is One. No person has superiority over another except by the degree of God consciousness (Taqwa). Indeed the best among you is the one with the best character.

Let people stop boasting ... All men are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust." - Islamic Tradition

There's hidden sweetness in the stomach's emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less.

If the soundboxes stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting,
every moment a new song comes out of the fire.

The fog clears, and new energy makes you run
up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.

A table descends to your tents, Jesus' table.
Expect to see it, when you fast,
this table spread with other kind of food,
better than the broth of cabbages.

- Rumi

# Related:
. Ramadhan Online Book
. Official Site of Brian McLaren
. Everything Must Change
. A 30 Minutes Interview with Brian D. McLaren
. Its all about Love
. Fast of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary
. So that you may know one another

# Further:
. Fasting Chart - The Universal Practice of Fasting across all Religions
. Ramadan and Fasting in America
. Ramadan Experience § Breaking fast in an American Mosque
. Joanna Cattanach's Ramadan Experiences
. Ramadan Sermon by Rev. Paul Beedle
. Hunger for What? Honoring Ramadan § A Sermon by Rev. Nina D. Grey
. US Muslims turn to Jews for Ramadan prayers Pin It Now!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Sermon Given By Prophet Muhammad On The Last Friday Of Sha'ban | The Reception Of The Month of Ramadan

"O People!

Indeed ahead of you is the blessed month of Allah. A month of blessing, mercy and forgiveness.

A month which with Allah is the best of months. Its days, the best of days, its nights, the best of nights, and its hours, the best of hours. It is the month which invites you to be the guests of Allah and invites you to be one of those near to Him. Each breath you take glorifies Him; your sleep is worship, your deeds are accepted and your supplications are answered.

So, ask Allah, your Lord; to give you a sound body and an enlightened heart so you may be able to fast and recite His Scripture, for only he is unfortunate who is devoid of Allah’s forgiveness during this great month.

Remember the hunger and thirst of the day of Qiyamah (Judgement) with your hunger and thirst; give alms to the needy and poor, honor your old, show kindness to the young ones, maintain relations with your blood relations; guard your tongues, close your eyes to that which is not permissible for your sight, close your ears to that which is forbidden to hear, show compassion to the orphans of people, so compassion may be shown to your orphans.

Repent to Allah for your sins and raise your hands in dua (supplication) during these times, for they are the best of times and Allah looks towards His creatures with kindness, replying to them during the hours and granting their needs if He is asked...

O People! Indeed your souls are dependent on your deeds, free it with repentance, lighten its loads by long prostrations; and know that Allah swears by His Magnificent Might: That there is no punishment for the one who prays and prostrates and he shall have no fear of the fire on the day when man stands before the Lord of the Worlds.

O People! One who serves food to a fasting person during this month will be like one who has freed someone and his past sins will be forgiven.

Some of the people who were there then asked the Prophet: "Not all of us are able to invite those who are fasting?"

The Prophet replied: "Allah gives this reward even if the Iftaar (meal to break fast with) is a drink of water."

"One who has good morals (Akhlaq) during this month will be able to pass the ‘Siraat’...on the day that feet will slip...

"One who covers the faults of others will benefit in that Allah will curb His anger on the Day of Judgement...

"As for one who honors an orphan; Allah will honor him on the Day of Judgement,

"And for the one who spreads his kindness, Allah will spread His mercy over him on the Day of Judgement.

"As for the one who cuts the ties of relation; Allah will cut His mercy from Him...

"Who so ever performs a recommended prayer in this month Allah will keep the fire of Hell away from him... Whoever performs an obligatory prayer Allah will reward him with seventy prayers [worth] in this month. And who so ever prays a lot during this month will have his load lightened on the Day of Measure.

"He who recites one verse of the holy Quran will be given the rewards of reciting the whole Qur’an during other months.

"O People! Indeed during this month the doors of heaven are open, therefore ask Allah not to close them for you; The doors of hell are closed, so ask Allah to keep them closed for you. During this month Satan is imprisoned so ask your Lord not to let him have power over you."

- Sermon in the assembly of his companions by Holy Prophet Muhammad on the last Friday of Shaban, the Lunar Month before Ramadan, the Hoy Month of Fasting (credit)

La ilaha illallah, Muhammad Rasulullah

There is only One God and Muhammad is the divine message bearer

May peace and blessings of God be upon you O Sultan of Hearts in the Garb of a Humble Man. Efendimiz, Most Precious Spiritual Mater. Ya Habibullah, Most Profoundly Beloved of Allah, Perfect Guide along the Mystic Way. O Living Presence of the Divine Mansion, Hazarti Paygambar, Most Revered Prophet, One Who Ceaselessly Praises Allah, Gatherer of Humanity. O Mystic Knower of the Sacred Law, Seal of the Prophets Who Announces the Distribution of Divine Light to All Humanity, Seal of Revelation. May the Peace of Allah and the mystic union with Divine Love exalt you eternally and exalt your noble family and your spiritual companions throughout time and eternity, gathering all souls together into the Culmination of Light and Love.

As Salatu wa-s-Salamu Alayka Ya Rasulullah
As Salatu wa-s Salamu Alayka Ya Habibullah

Heartfelt and profound greetings to your sublime soul,
O incomparable messenger and uniquely beloved one of Allah. Pin It Now!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quran E-Course in Ramadan

Quran in Hand via Flickr
Beginning in Ramadan, the month of the beginning of the revelation of Quran, Shaikh Kabir Helminski is collaborating with Jeremey Henzell-Thomas of the Book Foundation on an eCourse that introduces thirty selections from the Quran through a series of daily emails over the month of Ramadan, beginning August 21st.

This is a great way to deepen your understanding of the Quran and to engage in a community exchange. Friends at Spirituality and are making this available.

About: The Essence of the Qur'an | An Introduction for Non-Muslims and Muslims Alike | Led by Shaikh Kabir Helminski, Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, Mahmoud Mustafa, Mary Ann Brussat

Spirituality & Practice is pleased to announce the first in a series of online retreats on the sacred texts of the world's religions. The first one will focus on the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, and will be led by two Islamic scholars who have dedicated themselves to bringing the wisdom of this sacred text to the wider world.

Shaikh Kabir Helminski and Jeremy Henzell-Thomas will offer 30 meditations from the Qur’an revealing the universal spiritual principles at its heart. The purpose of this Online Retreat is to highlight universal spiritual principles that can guide and strengthen our hearts - whatever path we follow.

> Click here to know Details and Register, Hurry!

# What People Are Conversing About Ramadan?

. Click here to see live updates of what people in Social Networking sites such as Tweeter, FriendFeed, Flickr, RSS etc. are talking about Ramadan. Powered by Spy, Visualizing Social Media Conversations Live.

. Ramadan in Blogsphere via Google Blog Search and in Technorati Pin It Now!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Meaning and Dimensions of Fasting in Ramadan

"The real fast is the blossoming of the inner heart. Fragrance must emanate. The qualities, conduct, behavior, and disposition that accompany this blossoming make no sound. Light and fragrance must dawn in the inner heart. The one point which is God must resplend.

Do fast, but make sure the heart blossoms; make it fragrant. The flowering scent must emanate, and when that space is perceived, the One who inhales that perfume will come. The One who perceives that fragrance will come.

He is the Lord."

- The Fast of Ramadan, Inner Heart Blossoms,
by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

"Turn unto Him with Fasting" - St. James

The most anticipated month in Muslim calendar is the 9th month of lunar calendar, which is the blessed month of Ramadan. This is the month of spiritual renewal and rebirth. It is a month to teach how to be in the 'world' and still remaining above it and how to be with God secretly. Depending when the new moon will be visible, Ramadan this year most probably begins from 22nd August all over the world.

God invites all who securely believe to observe fasting in this month and those who are unable to do so for being sick or traveling to make up with number of other days or for those who are able to feeding a poor person. The Final Testament Quran has the following verses related to this exalted month of Ramadan and Fasting therein:

O you who securely believe, fasting is prescribed for you just as it was prescribed for those who came before you, that you might preserve yourselves (for God) - (by fasting) for the numbered days. And if any of you are sick or traveling, then number of other days. And for those who are able to, there is an expiation: feeding a poor person. Yet whoever voluntarily does good, it is better for him. And fasting is better for you if you only knew.

The month of Ramadan is in which the Quran came down as guidance for the people and Clear Proof of that guidance and differentiation (between illumination and darkness). So who from you (lives) to see the month, let him or her fast in it, and if any of you are sick or traveling, then number of other days.

God wants ease for you, and does not want hardship for you, and to fulfill the number (of fasting days) and for you to magnify God for having guided you, and to render thanksgiving.

And when my worshipers ask about Me, so (know that) I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls Me, so let them respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be rightly guided. - The Quran 2:183-186

Interestingly in these verses it is reminded that fasting as an ancient and universal spiritual practice prescribed to other times and traditions. Thus it addresses to those who securely believe to renew this practice by observing fast for a number of days, and the number is determined by the lunar cycle, a symbol that is greatly linked to earth and this earthen body of human self. The Quran prescribe to fast from before the apperance of dawn (when the first white thread is viewed) till the sundown or till the appearance of night. In this way the body fasts in harmony with the cycle of great nature. Externally Muslim fast is fast from all food, drinks, smoking or sexual relations. Internally Muslim fast is fasting from all negative thoughts and actions.

Tent of Abraham website explains on the meaning and dimensions of fasting:

Ramadan has many dimensions, including physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions. Ramadan orients the believer to balance between all these dimensions of his/her existence. Physical dimension of Ramadan includes abstaining from all kinds of food, drinks, smoking and sexual contact from sunrise to sunset. It helps physical attunement of the body through cleansing and relaxing, and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.

Psychological dimension of fasting is related to patience, forbearance and perseverance. Through observing fasting, the believer enriches his/her patience, forbearance, self-worth, self-strength, self-control, self-reflexivity, self-training and discipline. Through fasting Muslims strive for controlling their urges and resist temptation. And through meditative practices of praying, reading the Quran and remembering God, they are reminded of the bigger picture, and develop an understanding about purpose of creation. Thus, fasting helps dealing with stress, trauma, attain inner peace. Therefore Ramadan helps healing psychological problems.

In terms of social dimension, fasting calls for remembering those who are poor, who do not have food or shelter. Fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and of learning thankfulness and appreciation for all of God's bounties. It calls for purifying ones actions towards others. It reminds believers of their social responsibility, it calls for generosity, sharing and forgiving. It calls for compassion towards those who are in need and are suffering. During this month Muslims are especially called for resolving their conflicts, forgiving each other and asking for forgiveness.

Ramadan is also the month of mercy. Muslims are called to show mercy, compassion, generosity, and care for all Gods creatures, including themselves, other human beings, animals and the environment as the vicegerents of God on earth. By partaking in Ramadan, and experiencing it together creates a social space that is shared by many Muslims across the globe. This creates a unique sense of solidarity among Muslims around the world. By sharing the feast with friends and relatives during Eid ul Fitr, and by giving charity (fitra) and alms to the poor and needy (zakat), Muslims take part in healing social wounds, knitting closer ties with others, redistributing wealth, connecting with those who are in need. This aspect of Ramadan contributes to creating a just and compassionate society based on sharing and giving rather than focusing on consumerism.

Finally, in terms of its spiritual dimension, fasting redirects the hearts away from worldly activities, towards The Divine. During this month, Muslims ask for mercy and forgiveness from God. Purity of thought and action is paramount. Fasting is a deeply personal act of worship in which Muslims seek to raise their level of God-consciousness. During Ramadan Muslims feel the peace that comes from spiritual devotion as well as kinship with fellow believers. Ramadan calls for inner-reflection, rethinking of meaning of life and ones place thereof. It is a month for repentance, mercy and spiritual attunement. Because their attention is diverted from the satisfaction of bodily appetites and wants during fasting, Muslims receive a certain amount of ascendancy in terms of their spiritual nature. Thus they become closer to God.

In an article Fasting in Ramadan and Developing Self-Control by Yuksel A. Aslandogan writes further on the Spiritual Dimension of Fasting from Psycho-Spiritual view point:

In the spiritual dimension, fasting during Ramadan is an act of obedience. It leads to sincere thankfulness, which is the heart of worship. It also empowers our spiritual side over our physical tendencies. If we imagine our body as a vessel, such as a ship, our mind, heart and carnal desires are like hands that are trying to control this vessel. Fasting weakens the effect of the carnal self and strengthens the effects of the mind and the heart on the control of the body.

The experience of hunger in fasting breaks the illusory lordship of the carnal self, or ego, and, reminding the carnal self of its innate helplessness, convinces it that it is only a servant. Self consciousness, or the notion of “I,” is part of the “trust” that has been given to humans as the vicegerents of God on earth [The Qur’an, Ahzab 33:72]. “The All-Wise Creator entrusted each human being with an ego that has clues and examples that urge and enable them to recognize the truths about the attributes of the Lord of Creation and His essential qualities.

Although God is closer to us than our jugular vein [The Qur’an], His names and attributes cannot be fully comprehended as they are infinite and we are finite, mortal, limited creatures. The virtual attributes that God gives us can serve as units of measure for comparison and for a better appreciation of God’s names and attributes.

Ego contains thousands of states, attributes, and perceptions that, to some extent, disclose and make knowable the Divine Attributes and essential Qualities. It is like a measure, a mirror, or an instrument for seeing or finding out, an entity with an indicative function.

It is not necessary for a unit of measure to actually exist; like hypothetical lines in geometry, a unit of measure may be formed by hypothesis and supposition. It is not necessary for its actual existence to be established by concrete knowledge and proofs. The self, however, sometimes forgets its true nature and imagines its “knowledge,” “power,” “ownership,” and “ability” to be real. When the self forgets its true nature and the purpose of these feelings, it becomes a seed that may grow into a tree of arrogance.

God declares: [A person] gives up food and drink and sexual passion for my sake. Fasting is like a shield, and he who fasts has two joys: a joy when he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. Fasting is Mine and it is I Who give reward for it. - Sacred Tradition of Islam

"Anyone who fasts during this month with purity of belief and with expectation of a good reward (from his Creator), will have his previous sins forgiven," said Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. "Anyone who stands in prayers during its nights with purity of belief and expectation of a reward, will have his previous sins forgiven."

For the preparation for Ramadan and background, read Preparation for Ramadan | the quintessential month of fasting.

Also listen to a talk given at Shadhili gathering on Ramadan - According to Sharia, Tariqa and Haqiqa. This webcast recorded on 8/15/09 offers a detailed understanding of the blessings, outer practices, inner meanings, and gnostic reality of fasting. This give a deep understanding of how to fast according to the stations of the beginning, middle and end of the Sufi Path.

# Related:
. Purpose of Ramadan
. A Day in Ramadan | Faith and Anticipation
. Start of Ramadan
. Fasting in Hadith
. The Meaning of Ramadan by Khalid Baig
. Ramadan Resources via Islam City
. Secrets of Fasting from Futuhat-ul- Makkiyah by Ibn-al-Arabi
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Writing as Spiritual Practice

Pen Writing MysticSaint1.
Nun. By the Pen and that which they write!
- The Quran 68:01

Read! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,
Who teacheth (to write) by the pen.
- The Quran 96:03

Let not the scribe refuse to write:
as Allah Has taught him, so let him write.
- The Quran 2:282

In the beginning was the Word,
The Genesis of all Creation.
- Testament

I was reading Maktub written by one of the most celebrated writer of our time, Paulo Coelho. The very word and concept of Maktub originates in old Arab tradition. The book is a nice collection of short stories inspired by spiritual wisdom, few of them are reminiscent of sufi stories featuring mystic guides, wandering sages who are keeper of spiritual secrets. The book's small and sweet stories has the capacity to flood the readers mind and heart with inspirations. Thanks to my friend Vimesh for sending the book. (it can be downloaded from Paulo Coelho's site)

I came across this small story from Maktub which reminded of my sufi teacher, Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal, may God bless him abundantly and give him good health.

The master says: “Write! Whether it's a letter, a diary or just some notes as you speak on the telephone - but write!

In writing, we come closer to God and to others. If you want to understand your role in the world better, write. Try to put your soul in writing, even if no one reads your words - or worse, even if someone winds up reading what you did not want to be read. The simple fact of writing helps us to organize our thoughts and see more clearly what is in our surroundings.

A paper and pen perform miracles - they alleviate pain, make dreams come true and summon lost hope. The word has power.

- from Maktub, Paulo Coelho

The reason this writing reminded of sufi Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal's teaching is because when I first took hand with him (sufi bayat or initiation), I found him giving instruction to his many students is to write his book (particularly the Book title, Music of the Soul at that time). He is a prolific writer, so he wrote a number of books on sufi path and as instruction manual in spiritual journey. I found it curious that instead of just reading, he ask his students to write the book (literally copy them) by putting aside regular time to do so as a regular practice. I was reminded of his instruction as I read this story from Maktub.

God knows best the wisdom behind in its totality, and Shaykh himself about the wisdom behind the instruction of writing. But one can safely say that when it comes to deep teaching, mere reading is not enough (specially with a mind that's always having ten thousand distractions). Writing slows down and make whole the absorption process as compared to just reading. While simultaneously reading and writing - the writer is immersed more deeply into it. And by the grace of the Shaykh, the inspiration and gnosis with which the book was received and written, can also transfer to the reader and writer. Infact a sincere student enters into the magnetic field of the spirit of the guide when one absorbs himself or herself in the flow of consciousness through concentrating on the writing. It is as if like the hand and the pen and the person enters into the personality of the teacher when the student rewrites the book.

Apart from this pure esoteric dimension of writing, writing can simply be a spiritual practice. From exoteric perspective writing can be therapeutic, psychologically it is an access and communication with the subtle, subconscious part of our self and ofcourse it is an avenue of expression to others which itself can be powerful healing too.

In the spiritual practice of writing, there is another important benefit of it. Since the feeling and emotions and experiences in the realm of spirituality are often can not be shared so easily as any other conversation topic like the weather or traffic or price in the super market; keeping a spiritual journal, writing letters to friend of spiritual intelligence can become the most practical exercise.

"If you want to understand your role in the world better, write. Try to put your soul in writing, even if no one reads your words.."

A human being is not only flesh and bones but also of spirit, thus the need to share experiences of spiritual nature is also a drive of the soul. It begins with an awareness of the hidden world, and awareness of what is within. We then turn inward in order to process what we've absorbed. Or, as Buddhist author Natalie Goldberg puts it, to "compost" our vision.

Then we return our attention to the outward world by writing - connecting with others through the words we choose, nourished by the composting we've done in the soil of our lives.

Writing can be a more fulfilling spiritual practice if we approach it with the presence what Zen calls beginner’s mind. Natalie Goldberg says: "Beginner’s mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again. Actually, every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before. Each time is a journey with no maps."

When we realize our words can help, heal, enlighten, and bring peace to our human family, we begin to realize the significance of our practice. Writing is a sacred practice. The knowledge of writing was given to mankind as a gift to accelerate its journey of consciousness. That is why in the Final Testament the knowledge transmission is symbolized by the saying that "God taught by Pen" where Pen is an archetype of that which records.

The concept of divine tablet that records everything is found in other place of the Quran. The reflection of this concept that 'everything is written / recorded' in some Cosmic Repositories can also be traced in human DNA which even though being so tiny in shape contains the whole host of human characteristics from not only parents but many past generations in terms of gene. That tiny microcosm or DNA, the repository of human genome contains approximately three billion chemical base pairs. Imagine that!

From microcosm to macrocoms. As above so below - as outer, so is inner rules. The divine law of recording also applies to the spiritual inner works and dimensions.

Whoever works any act of righteousness and has faith,- his endeavour will not be rejected: and surely We will write (It) down for him. - The Quran 21:94

Surely We give life to the dead, and We write down what they have sent before and their footprints, and We have recorded everything in a clear writing. - The Quran 36:12

In far east the practice of sacred calligraphy is a sacred art that combined meditative instruction text from higher masters with beauty and concentration.

The Illuminated Manuscript writers were sacred artists and spiritual personalities also practiced the art of writing as spiritual practice, specially in the Judeo Chrstian tradition before the invention of printing press or its popularity. Even today we find many spiritual teachers ask their students to keep spiritual diary, dream journal to record and give an opportunity for the inner self to express itself and register that to the outer world in a more clear way.

The earlier practitioner of writing in human history when writing was still a privilege for common class - they were primarily writers of scared texts and scriptures. Thus at the genesis of writing is connected to sacred already.

The central role of Quran had a major impact in Muslim world. In earlier days Quran was copied manually and many sufi saints had the practice of writing the Quranic scripture by hand. Even some used to earn living by copying the Quran. What people often forget that the very process of writing the holy scripture was practiced as a very powerful meditation practice. Like the Torah, each letter even the dots in Arabic Quran is sanctified. Thus any practice concerning its reading and writing, both holds great merit to the pious muslim. "The ink of a scholar is more precious than the blood of a martyr." - as it is found in Islamic Sacred tradition.

Following the footstep of their Mystic Guide, Prophet Muhammad, many sufi saints used to send letters of instruction / advice to others to invite people to truth. There involved the practice of writing as well. The Hundred Letters of Shaykh Sharafuddin Maneri is a collection such valuable letters.

Aurangzeb, a pious muslim ruler who ruled vast territories of India from 1658 to 1707, did not draw salary from state treasury but earned his own living by selling caps he sewed and selling copies of the Quran he copied by hand.

Writing as spiritual practice can be traced in many great saints, philosopher and poets who all were brilliant writers of their time. After the loss of his Perfect Master, Shams Tabriz, it was through his ceaseless outpouring of grief of separation as writing that did Jalaluddin Rumi discovered himself and also found Shams in that very writing to the deepest extent that he calls one of his masterpiece during that time as "Diwan e Shams" (The Book of Shams).

Talking about writing, it reminds me of Ms. Irina Tweedie and her book Daughter of Fire which was written by instruction by her Indian Sufi Teacher Radha Lal Mohan, may God bless them both, as a spiritual diary during the stay Ms. Irina had with the Master. I quote from the book's introduction at Golden Sufi website:

Little did Irina Tweedie know that her trip to India in 1959, at the age of fifty-two, would mysteriously lead her to a Sufi Master, and set her upon a journey to the "heart of hearts," the Sufi path of realization.

Her teacher's first request of her was to keep a complete diary of her spiritual training - everything, all the difficult parts, even all the doubts. He predicted that one day it would become a book and would benefit people around the world.

This diary spans five years, making up an amazing record of spiritual transformation . . . the agonies, the resistance, the long and frightening bouts with the purifying forces of Kundalini, the perseverance, the movements towards surrender, the longing, and finally the all-consuming love.

From a psychological viewpoint, the diary maps the process of ego dissolution, gradually unveiling the openness and love that reside beneath the surface of the personality.

On writing, Coleman Barks, translator of Rumi's poety in an interview mentions the following:

Feeling beauty is a necessity for truth telling. I don't think you should write unless you feel the beauty of truth and the truth of beauty.

Forget about feeling safe when you write. Forget about finding shelter and step out! Let's get in the ocean - dive into the dangerously deep part of life!

May you also find a way to express yourself in writing, be it in private journal or print media or web. And thus discover the beauty and truth and in the process connect with the divine center from where all flows.

Return like that to the source of all Sources. Peace!

You hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights. But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge. You would know in words that which you have always known in thought. You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

- The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Wave | Sanjeev Bhalla

A wave arose in the Ocean,
Its form defined its existence,
The pull of the ocean called it back,
In the wonderful silence of nothingness.

The wave was but the Ocean's whim,
In Ocean's bosom, it found its peace,
See closely, is there a wave at all,
Just an echo of the Ocean's clamor.

The form and shape are wondrous waves,
But its time to go home now,
I have splashed long enough,
Let the Ocean lay its claim.

- Sanjeev Bhalla

Late, by myself, in the boat of myself,
no light and no land anywhere,
cloud cover thick. I try to stay
just above the surface,
yet I'm already under
and living with the ocean.

- Rumi, Coleman Barks

# More delight for the mind and heart
. Ocean of My Dreams: A fusion of Rumi, Ibn Arabi & A. Yaseen
. Beauty of the Heart
Pin It Now!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Krishna Janmashtami Celebration in Dhaka

krishna nee begane baaro
begane baaro mukavannu toro

Krishna! Just come here!
Appear here to bless me
with your sweet face!
- Vyaasaraaya

Today is celebrated as Janmashtami (literally means Birth on the 8th), the blessed birthday of Krishna here in Bangladesh, as it is in India. According to Hindu legend Lord Krishna took birth at midnight on the 'ashtami' or the 8th day of the 'krishnapaksha' or dark fortnight in the month of Shravan (August-September).

Poster of JanmashtamiHere in my own city Dhaka, Janmashtami is a very traditional festival. From about 400 years since this city is established, the occasion of the holy birth of Krishna is celebrated in great enthusiasm. Dhaka which was predominantly a city inhabited by hindus even only about 100 years ago, Janmashtami was among the top three religious celebration, the other two being Muslim festivals such as Eid and Muharram.

KrishnaTraditionally the hindu community in Dhaka celebrates the Janmashtami with long parades / marches accompanied by chants, music and festive mood along the city roads. I was lucky to observe one today which started from the Dhakeshwari Temple, not so far from where I live. The parade was more than a mile long. People of all age came to participate. All kind of vehicles were decorated for the occasion. Thanks to loud speakers almost all vehicles tried to play their own Krishna songs and chants to attract others.

Today I saw Krishna so many times that I lost count eventually. From baby Krishna to all grown up Krishna! Darshan after Darshan!

What is most striking feature of Janmashtami Parade is the custom of dressing up as Krishna, Radha and other characters from the life of Krishna. And ofcourse all of them had the famous flute in hand, the favorite instrument of Krishna. Many colored themselves in blue to represent the dark complexion of Krishna. It is no doubt one of the most colorful religious festival you can imagine. People of every social class come and join to celebrate here thanks to the occasion. Apart from walking on foot - horse carts, open trucks, van and all kind of vehicles get filled with Krishna devotee who join the parade.

Krishna and Radha in Dhaka Janmashtami Parade
. Teachings of Krishna

Hazrat Inayat Khan point out two important aspects of Krishna's life whom he sees as a perfect man (Insan Kamil). The two aspect which offers wisdom from Krishna's blessed life is the aspect of perfecting the art of war in life, as life is a continual battle and the earth is the battlefield where every soul has to struggle, and the one who wants to win the kingdom of the earth must be well acquainted with the laws of warfare. He has to fight on two fronts at the same time: one enemy is himself (nafs, ego's falsehood), and the other is before him (dunya, the external world of distractions). If he is successful on one front and fails on the other front, then his success is not complete.

The other aspect of Krishna's life shows that every soul is striving to attain God – not God, as Judge or King, but as the Beloved. Every soul seeks God, the God of love, in the form it is capable of imagining, and thus the story of Krishna and the Gopis signifies God and the various souls seeking perfection.

The path of Krishna is the path of pure devotion and sweet surrender. God speaks thru Krishna in which the whole of his teachings are summarized in the following verses: "Always think of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me, and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me."

. Krishna as a Prophet

Often time in different religious path, the language and terms create the illusion of difference. What in hindu path is known as avatars are called as messengers and prophet in other tradition. But ultimately such names point to human forms who embody the highest ideals. From universalist perspective, Krishna is seen possibly a Prophet (in the rank of other Biblical Prophets) by some Muslim scholars. Citing from a well compiled article published in India Muslims website titled, Who were the Indian Prophets:

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, a Sunni Path scholar, wrote in the context of the possible prophethood of Sri Krishna, Gautam Buddha and Confucius “It is very probable that many of the great religious figures of other traditions were true prophets”. Mazhar Jan-i-Jana, an eighteenth century theologian and mystic, regarded both Sri Krishna and Sri Ram as Prophets of God and Vedas as divinely inspired. The same we can say of Maulana Hasrat Mohani’s thoughts (who was a Deobandi scholar and a member of India’s constituent assembly). Also some ulama in the famous Firangi Mahal of Lucknow held Sri Krishna in great respect.

It claims that Prophet Muhammad said “Kanna filhindhi nabiyyun asvadhul lavni ismuhoo Kahina” meaning “A Prophet appeared in India. He was black in complexion. His name was Kahina”. This is reported to be mentioned in the book ‘Firdowsul Akbar’ by Hazrat Thylami. If this is true, which I could not find a way of ascertaining, it quite clearly mentions about Sri Krishna who had a dark complexion and was in his childhood lovingly called kanha.

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# You may see a selection of Photos from this years Janmashtami Parade in Dhaka

# Reference:
. Krishna - embodiment of Love and Wisdom
. Krishna Janmashtami | The Story of the Birth of Krishna
. Janmashtami 2009
. Hindus in Bangladesh celebrate
. Janmashtami in India Pin It Now!